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Meli and Read the Play team up with AFL and Movember for mental health initiative

Meli and Read the Play are excited to be working with the AFL and Movember as delivery partners to bring Ahead of the Game (AOTG) to community football in 2023 and 2024.

This mental health literacy and resilience training program aims to educate umpires, young players (U12, U14 and U18) and their support networks (parents, coaches, and club volunteers) on the importance of mental health.

The program gives them tools to deal with life’s challenges, and the confidence to support their mates through tough times, whilst also empowering them to look after their own mental wellbeing.

AOTG was developed by leading experts from the University of Wollongong and is backed by a five-year international program of scientific evidence.

CEO Grant Boyd said the Movember AOTG program was an important initiative, tapping into networks where young people already connect and learn vital life skills to improve mental health outcomes.

“Our experience shows us that the best way to support community wellbeing is by being proactive, providing compassionate support and taking a preventative and early engagement approach,” he said.

“That’s why I’m pleased to work with the AFL and Movember AOTG to tackle the mental health of our young people head-on.”

Read the Play general manager Michelle Gerdtz said it was an exciting opportunity to work with Meli and the AFL to expand Read the Play’s current offering to football clubs in the region.

“We have been working with AFL Barwon clubs for 17 years to deliver mental health education to 14 to 16 year-olds and the mental health and wellbeing of young people in our region is our constant focus,” she said.

“This partnership will assist our local clubs in playing an ongoing proactive role in supporting the mental health of young community members.”

The AFL welcomes program delivery partners for Movember Ahead of the Game

The AFL is pleased to announce 16 community organisations will join with the AFL and Movember to deliver Ahead of the Game (AOTG) – a mental health literacy and resilience program for young people.

AFL and Movember AOTG initiative will be the largest roll out of a mental fitness program in sport globally and will commence in community football clubs across Australia next month.

The delivery partners feature a host of organisations from across the country including Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), regional headspace centres, Reclink Australia and Outside the Locker Room as well as AFL Club aligned organisations with the Danny Frawley Centre and Western Bulldogs Community Foundation.

The AOTG program aims to educate young players and umpires (aged 12-18 years) and their support networks of parents, coaches, and club volunteers on the importance of mental health. Giving them tools to deal with life’s challenges, and the confidence to support their mates through tough times, whilst also empowering them to look after their own mental wellbeing.

Delivery partners will facilitate AOTG’s interactive workshops to teams of young players and umpires in community football club changerooms, before, after or during training.

The program also extends to workshops for parents, coaches and club volunteers, providing opportunities to educate whole football club communities on recognising mental health challenges, identifying when to get help, and building resilience to deal with challenges in sport and life.

AFL Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Dr Kate Hall said it was great to welcome a host of delivery partners to the program.

“The AFL is thrilled to partner with Movember and work with our delivery partners to facilitate the Ahead of the Game program to hundreds of communities this year,” Dr Hall said.

“We know that grassroots football clubs around Australia provide a place for connection and belonging for young people. The AFL and Movember believe footy is a way for young Australians to learn crucial mental skills that build resilience in football and life. These skills include appreciating your team and helping out a mate.”

“We want to harness the power of our great game to help players, coaches, parents and volunteers to understand mental health, build mental fitness and strengthen resilience across the country so that we can build communities that are mentally fit and capable to handle any challenge that comes their way.”

With most common mental health conditions occurring in adolescence to mid-20s, Movember APAC Country Director, Rachel Carr said giving young people the tools to better understand mental health and mental fitness has never been more important.

“We know that 75% of all mental health conditions onset before the age of 25 years old, making these critical early intervention years. If we can connect with young people before this point and help improve their mental health literacy and resilience, we could slow the onset and burden of mental ill health for future generations,” Carr said.

The AOTG program will be delivered to in stages to community football clubs across all states and territories throughout the three-year partnership, with the program to begin in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and Tasmania in the first year.

Community football clubs can register their expression of interest for the first year of the AOTG program via https://www.play.afl/aotg

Please see below a list of the 16 delivery partners:

Danny Frawley Centre
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC)
Catholic Care NT
Merri-bek City Council
Top Blokes Foundation
Meli in partnership with Read the Play
Rural, Alive and Well (RAW)
Mind Challenge
headspace – Shepparton
headspace- Swan Hill
headspace- Mildura
Reclink Australia
Noosa Tigers Australian Football Club
Western Bulldogs Community Foundation
Outside the Locker Room Charity Limited
Liminal Wellbeing

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